Richie Perry, graduated from Harlem, is ready to join the army at only age 17. This is pretty much his only option because his alcoholic, single mother can't afford college for him. He heads off to basic training in the year 1967. There, he hurts his knee and expects to not even be sent to Vietnam. But, Richie's medical profile, isn't processed right, so he is sent anyways. On the way over, he meets Judy Duncan and Peewee, and they become friends. After a bad night of sleeping on benches, Richie and Peewee head out to Vietnam. That night, Richie thinks about Kenny, and how he deserves a better life than he has had. The next day, another soldier, Rings, asks Richie and Peewee to cut open their skin so they can become "blood brothers", but they both decline his offer. Richie learns that the war may be over soon so he writes a letter to Kenny saying that it's going to be over soon. After ten days at the camp, Richie and Peewee and a scared soldier named Jenkins, are moved to another camp named Chu Lai. Once they arrive, they meet a black soldier named Johnson, who is angered about Peewee's comments. Richie has to tell Jenkins that he isn't going to die because he is really scared that he will. Later that night, Richie Peewee and Jenkins are ordered to go on night patrol. The sergeant tells them not get him killed because he has only four months left until he goes back home. The soldiers were worried, but nothing bad happens until Jenkins steps on a landmine, just before entering their camp. Lieutenant Carroll explains to his soldiers why his father used to call soldiers "angel warriors" after leading a prayer for Jenkins. A few days pass, and the squad members meet new guys. Monaco, a star athlete in highschool, Brew who wants to be a priest, and Lobel who talks about movies a lot. The squad is eventually sent on a mission to bring food and medical supplies to a village. Richie and Lobel become friends with a Vietnamese girl name An Linh. Back at camp, Richie and Peewee learn that Captain Stewart wants to lead their squad into a dangerous mission, as a way to increase the enemy body count, and to promote Stewart to major. Later, Peewee is sent a letter from his girlfriend saying that she has already married another man. After a pretty much pointless mission, Lt. Carroll says to Richie that his medical profile still hasn't been processed yet. He also says that if his knee injury is bad enough, he will no longer have to go on combat missions. But Richie feels loyal to his squad and deals with the pain. After Richie and Lobel are put on guard duty, a news team comes to interview their squad. They go around asking why each soldier is fighting in Vietnam. Then, they tag along with Richie's squad during a mission. Monaco, kills a soldier, who Richie finds out, is about the same size as his little brother Kenny. A medic tells Richie that Captain Stewart reported three kills for the mission, even though only one was shot. Richie had the dead soldier on his mind, and thought about the soldier's family and life. Later, Richie comes down a bad intestinal disease, and rests for a couple of days.
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Richie is sent on a patrol with another squad because he missed a patrol with his squad. While out, his squad fires on a group of enemies, killing about a dozen. But it turns out, it was an American platoon that his squad accidently fired on. Richie becomes very upset at the thought of so many soldiers dying because of a squad leader's mistake. Brew lends him a bible, and he asks Brew where he can find the Lord's Prayer. A couple days later, Corporal